By Ifeanyi Afuba….
In the countdown to the January 13, 2018 rerun of the Anambra Central Senatorial zone election, veteran of the APGA struggle, Victor Chukwunonyelu Umeh, stands at the threshold of another page of history.
When Umeh in the aftermath of the April 2015 senatorial contest had promised to use his imminent election petition to deal a mortal blow to the PDP’s electoral impunity in Anambra State, some dismissed him as a joker. A little more sobriety would have cautioned otherwise. The story of reclamation of Peter Obi’s 2003 governorship mandate and the serial battles to protect the APGA brand from political speculators is considerably about Victor Umeh’s exploits. But that is a topic for another day.
Our election rigging politicians and their cheerleaders laughed off Umeh’s statement. In a mock show of concern, a few counseled him to cut his losses; focus attention on the 2019 contest rather than dissipating energy on litigation. Today, with the mismanaged 2015 poll now set to be buried with the January 13, 2018 rerun, Umeh’s gratuitous advisers are coming to terms with the reality of participatory democracy.
Kudos to the Mahmood Yakubu – led INEC for so far, rightfully ignoring the worthless Federal High Court order of December 13, 2017 recognising Mr Obiora Okonkwo as senator – elect. The INEC’s neglect of the said judgment is equitable and salutary. In the face of counter and earlier judgments on the same matter by both a superior and coordinate court and by taking a holistic rather than an isolated view of the subject, the INEC is right to stick to the announced 2018 rerun.
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The resort by Obiora Okonkwo, an aspirant for the PDP ticket in the 2015 Anambra Central Senatorial election to the Federal High Court, Abuja for declaration as the rightful PDP candidate and indeed winner of the poll three weeks after the Court of Appeal judgment directing the INEC to conduct rerun of the same election is an exercise in futility.
Mr Okonkwo’s application and the reported granting of his reliefs by the Federal High Court are all in vain. The excursion is no more than the act of a bird that flies from the ground to a termite’s mound. The bird is still on the ground. Court order or not, Okonkwo remains an aspirant for the 2015 PDP ticket. As the cliché goes, you cannot build something on nothing.
The moral and legal truth of the matter is that the result arising from the 2015 senatorial election has been nullified. That process has come to an end by the constitutional authority of the Court of Appeal. A new phase of the electoral process will only come to life through a new poll. Secondly, PDP did not conduct any valid primary for the purpose of selecting its candidate for the Anambra Central Senatorial district election in 2015. No primary was held. Consequently, there cannot be winner[s] of a poll that did not take place. The scenario of a contending winner of a phantom primary is most ridiculous.
In its judgment of December 7, 2015, nullifying Uche Ekwunife’s declaration as winner of Anambra Central Senatorial election of April 2015, the Court of Appeal not only determined that erstwhile Senator Uche Ekwunife was ‘not a product of a valid primary’; it also held that neither Ekwunife nor the PDP at any point in the trial led evidence to show that primary was held by the party in the senatorial zone.
Any further doubt about the porosity of PDP’s senatorial primary is conclusively dispelled by the judgment of Justice Olasunbo Goodluck of the Federal Capital Territory High Court delivered December 6, 2017, at least a week before the controversial order of Justice John Tsoho recognising Obiora Okonkwo as winner of the PDP’s primary. In Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1110/2015 brought by Chike Maduekwe, the Court agreed with the plaintiff that the PDP did not hold any senatorial primary for Anambra Senatorial zone in 2015. The plaintiff, Maduekwe was a contender for the PDP ticket having fulfilled the requirements in the PDP’s electoral guidelines. Consequently, the FCT High Court ordered the PDP to refund Maduekwe the sum of N4.5 million he paid to the party as nomination fee.
‘It is hereby declared that the 1st Defendant [PDP] is not entitled to retain the N4.5million paid by the plaintiff as the PDP Senate Expression of Interest EO1 and nomination form when the 1st Defendant refused, failed and or neglected to conduct the primary election to elect its flagbearer for Anambra Central Senatorial District.’
So which primary did Obiora Okonkwo win? This is stranger than fiction, yet it is happening before our very eyes. And by the way, is the Federal High Court superior to the FCT High Court or the Court of Appeal? Why did the Abuja Federal High Court not take judicial notice of subsisting court judgments on the same matter? You wonder, we wonder.
From the convulsions arising from the PDP’s Anambra Central senatorial ticket, the merits of Victor Umeh’s challenge of the system that has aided this disorder, becomes clearer. The benefits accruable from a corrective review of the political and electoral process such as engendered by Umeh’s activism cannot be over – emphasised. If through his intervention, Victor Umeh has only succeeded in inspiring higher regard for transparency and due process, he would already have achieved a heroic feat. He is also poised to breast the historic tape as the foremost and authentic APGA senator of the fourth republic.
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